Laying liberal deep in the heart of Texas is the quirky city of Austin. Sure, it maintains some of its Texas charms with joints like Franklin Barbecue and the occasional honky-tonk bar, but really, Austin is just about as different as a next-door neighbor can be.
Headed to Austin? Offbeat experiences aren’t so hard to discover. There are plenty of unique things to do in Austin today and every day, and with just a few days to spare, you can join the movement to keep Austin weird.
If you’re a novelty seeker, you can’t help but dig what Austin has to offer. The local scene rivals that of any major US city with the space to spread out and a hint of Southern appeal that cities like Portland or San Francisco lack.
Austin uplifts creativity and local businesses flourish with limited competition from national franchises (whatever, Whataburger can stay). And really, you’ll just dig how Austin has committed to all things weird because if you’re going to be different, you might as well make a statement about it. Between the Cathedral of Junk, the Museum of Weird, and the Sfanthor House of Wax, it’s a surprise this whole damn list didn’t turn into novelty museums.
Ready to experience the best of Austin? Here are 51 things to do in Austin that are local experience, unique, or completely weird.
Unique Things to Do in Austin
Very Austin Experiences
1. Browse the castaway collection at the Cathedral of Junk or Uncommon Objects
2. Grab some spray paint and leave your mark at the HOPE Outdoor Gallery. Quick update: The original location shut down in 2019, but they’re building a new location near the airport.
3. Escape the heat to 68-degree waters at Barton Springs pool
4. Take a tour of the Deep Eddy Vodka Distillery and enjoy the tasting afterward
5. Head to Hamilton’s Pool, Austin’s iconic swimming grotto
6. Picnic under the shadiest tree you can find at Zilker Park
7. Strip down to your skivvies at the clothing-optional Hippie Hollow Park
8. Experience one of the most iconic, fun things to do in Austin – a University of Texas football game! Hook ’em horns!
9. Catch a film at the Alamo Drafthouse Tip: Weird Wednesday at The Ritz location boasts movies too outrageous for prime time.
10. Take a sunrise jog around Lady Bird Lake (but take the sunrise advice seriously! Austin gets HOT)
11. Go bat spotting at Congress Avenue Bridge Tip: Avoid the Congress Avenue Crowds and go bat spotting at the I-35 and McNeil Rd bridge
12. Brush up on your Texas history at the Bullock Texas State History Museum
13. Catch a live show at the legendary Hole in the Wall
14. Check out the sunset from Mount Bonnell for views of the city, Lake Austin, and surrounding hills
15. Spend a few days camping with locals at Lake Travis
16. Takedown a Texas taco or two at the famous Torchy’s
17. Dirty up your hands with some very pricy beef ribs from La Barbecue. Read more about where to eat BBQ and other American street food here!
18. Dough or doughnut? Honestly, who cares. Go big with a decadent doughnut from Gourdough’s
19. Experiment with Austin’s abundant variety of breakfast tacos
20. Order up a dozen drummettes at Tommy Want Wingy
21. Spoon as much Blue Bell Ice Cream as your belly can handle
22. Eat at a food truck (any food truck) because practically everyone is doing it
23. Grab an Americano at Jo’s Coffee, home of the “I love you so much” mural
24. Celebrate the holidays year-round at Lala’s Little Nugget – a dive bar that’s always decorated for Christmas
25. Throwback a very sour pickle shot at Kung Fu Saloon
26. Sip a locally distributed, only-in-Texas craft beer
27. Get serious about karaoke at The Highball
28. Stack into Container Bar – an industrial bar made entirely from shipyard containers
29. Make a reservation at the massage-parlor-turned-speakeasy, Midnight Cowboy
30. Head out for the night on 6th Street, a strip lovingly named “Dirty Sixth”
Events + Festivals in Austin
31. Head grumpy to Pease Park to a citywide celebration of Eeyore’s Birthday Party
32. Stuff your face with scoops of all kinds at the Austin Ice Cream Festival
33. Free your mind and listen to what’s happening in the world of tech, art, and music at South by Southwest (SXSW)
34. Fly your favorite kite at the Zilker Kite Festival. The more fantastic the better.
35. Get down at Austin City Limits Music Festival
36. No money? No problem. Head to Free Week in Austin for a local version of SXSW
37. Dress in costume and run the Keep Austin Weird 5K
Love festivals? Discover more: 21 Weird + Unique World Festivals
Keeping Austin Weird
38. Get lost in the sufficiently strange Museum of Weird or Sfanthor House of Wax
39. Pedal into gear in the human-powered rattlesnake at the Austin Bike Zoo
40. Who says sleeping shouldn’t be a fun thing to do? Stay in accommodation as weird as the city itself.
41. BYOB to a strange round of putt-putt at Peter Pan Mini-Golf
42. Head to Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon for a round of Chicken Shit Bingo. But listen up. This is not merely a nickname!
43. Come in and sin at the super divey, always kitschy Mean Eyed Cat Bar
44. Sit for a beer, catch live music, or even join the circus at the circus-themed Carousel Lounge
45. Experience a puppet show made for adult audiences at Trouble Puppet
Austin + Beyond
46. Drive 400 miles West to the very quirky desert town of Marfa for a food truck lunch or to scope out public art
47. Venture to the Hill Country to experience what Texas is all about
48. Float the Guadalupe River with a beer in hand (don’t forget your beer raft!)
49. Snap a photo at the “You’re my Butter Half” or the “Austin” mural because everyone else is doing it
50. Drive 85 miles per hour on a Texas highway, and don’t even worry about getting a speeding ticket
51. Live it up and find out, once and for all, whether everything is bigger in Texas
Looking for unique things to do in Austin today? Check out DO512, a site that shares the most awesome events in awesome, today and every day.
Unique Places to Stay in Austin
Looking to stay strange? Check out these quirky accommodations in Austin:
The Heywood Hotel | If you’re looking for somewhere to stay that is both stylish and well-located, the Heywood Hotel is just the spot you’re looking for. It’s a short walk from 6th Street and a quick drive from the University of Texas, plus the rooms are cute with colorful accents and an extremely comfortable bed. Double rooms start from $400.
Airbnb | You might notice that finding cool accommodation in Austin is much easier than finding something affordable. To get the best of both worlds, spend some time on Airbnb searching for quirky homes in neighborhoods where you’d like to stay anyway. You can find everything from lofts, to airstreams, to artist bungalows in Austin, and the average nightly price is far lower than what you’d expect to stay at an Austin hotel. New to Airbnb? Get $40 off your first stay or explore other properties from $50.
CathyAugust 22, 2016 at 4:30 pm
Great photos and I love the idea of adding my own street art anywhere:) Thanks for the unique ideas.
Taylor RecordAugust 24, 2016 at 3:02 pm
Thank you, Cathy! It is a super fun city. If you have the chance to go to HOPE, don’t forget to sign up for a permit! Cheers.
ToddDecember 13, 2017 at 4:06 pm
So, you photographed the Austin Mural twice and used the image, but didn’t mention it as a must do? Classy.
Taylor RecordDecember 19, 2017 at 10:48 am
Good point, Todd! It definitely deserves a mention.
CoryMay 16, 2018 at 5:21 pm
Marfa is about 6 1/2 hours away from Austin. So, not sure why it’s listed as a fun thing to do in or around Austin. Kind of like recommending someone check out New York City while visiting Washington D.C.–except 2.5 hours farther. Maybe at least let people know this when you make the recommendation.
TaylorMay 16, 2018 at 10:32 pm
Hey Cory. Your feedback makes sense! That section is dedicated to things “beyond” Austin, and in some of our other city posts, that section includes places much further in the same state. Just made an update to make it more clear.
Morgan @ The Girls From AustinOctober 23, 2019 at 4:03 am
You have so many good things to do in Austin on this list! I was surprised to find a few I wasn’t familiar with, but a good number of them have been crossed off my own Austin bucket list.
Fun fact — Bullock Texas State History Museum is free on the first Sunday of the month!
Unfun fact — the HOPE Outdoor Gallery, the Castle Hill graffiti park that’s been open since 2011, closed this January.
Taylor RecordOctober 29, 2019 at 12:27 am
Hey Morgan. That is a VERY unfun fact. Actually got the update from some friends who had their engagement photos taken there! Did they tear it down or just close it to visitors?